For the second year in a row, actor Jerry O’Connell is set to partake in a new annual holiday tradition: guest-hosting the AKC National Championship Dog Show Presented by Royal Canin, airing on Animal Planet on New Year’s Day. But as he navigates his hosting duties, this holiday season he’s also corralling four dogs, two cats, and his twin daughters, Dolly and Charlie, along with his wife, Rebecca Romijn, as they create some new seasonal traditions of their own. Namely, hitting the mall.
“This was the first year that we really did retail,” O’Connell tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “My kids are 8 now, and I had never really taken my daughters to the mall during the holiday season — they just didn’t understand it.”
To help the kids get into the shopping spirit, O’Connell and Romijn devised a plan. “This year my wife took one of our girls and went shopping with her for her sister and me, and I took another of our girls and went shopping for my wife and her sister,” he says.
Jerry O’Connell and his girls:
And the experience made O’Connell a bigger fan of the holiday shopping experience than he expected. “Man, my daughter really made me love going to the mall,” O’Connell enthuses. “We were all in the holiday spirit, we stopped for lunch, we were looking for a good sale, we were really inspired … so as crazy as this sounds, shopping for each other is sort of going to become a tradition for us.”
Apparently this holiday plan might’ve worked a little too well, as O’Connell’s daughter was fully taken by the shopping bug — so much so that while she was excited to shop for her sister, she was also inspired to find some goodies for herself. “I explained to her that this is not what the season was all about, so we fought a little bit,” he admits.
Those fights took place at a mall mainstay and the store of preteen dreams: Claire’s.
“We spent a good three and a half hours in Claire’s, which is pretty crazy because the store is not that big,” he says. “I understand spending three and a half hours at an entire mall, but when you’re at one Claire’s just looking at one earring, it’s pretty crazy for me. Also, I had never set foot in a Claire’s until my kids were about 6 years old. It’s new to me. And it’s cool — I’m good for it for about 10, 15 minutes; there’s a lot of cool stuff in there. But after about 15 minutes I’m like, OK, let’s move on. And my daughters are not nearly done.”
Otherwise, their family holiday traditions are much like you’d expect — they get a tree, leave cookies and milk out for Santa, and do Christmas breakfast. O’Connell loves sharing this time of year with his kids, but this time of year is also a double celebration for the family — Dolly and Charlie celebrate their birthdays on Dec. 28.
Jerry O’Connell with his fam:
O’Connell doesn’t lump their birthday celebrations in with holiday madness. Even though Romijn is concerned about their birthdays being so close to Christmas, O’Connell says they make sure to have some manner of party for them either before or after the holidays, depending on what everyone’s schedule is. He didn’t spoil what their birthday would be like this year, but it’s a safe bet they won’t be duplicating the twins’ 7th birthday party, which featured a huge sleepover.
“We did a sleepover … which was pretty crazy,” O’Connell recalls. “Maybe the toughest thing I’ve done so far being a father is trying to get 15 7-year-old girls to go to sleep. I mean, literally it would be one in the morning I’d be like, ‘All right, that’s it! Everyone has to go to sleep now — now! If I hear one more noise, everyone is going home!’ I was always threatening to take everyone home.”
“It was crazy,” he continues, shaking his head in bewilderment. “I had been to a bunch of sleepovers growing up, and eventually we went to sleep. But my daughters and her friends would not go to sleep — they refused to go to sleep. And then when half of them would go to sleep, the other half wouldn’t. And then we’d get that half to go to sleep, and the other half would stay up. They were like cats in the night. I finally passed out. I was worried about what the other parents were going to say!”
Meanwhile, earlier this year O’Connell and Romijn celebrated their 10th anniversary — and rather than have a big blowout, they had a small, intimate dinner for two … that turned into a dinner for three when Romijn’s co-star crashed their meal.
“My wife was working in Portland [Ore.] on our anniversary — she’s currently shooting The Librarians, a show on TNT — so we went to her favorite restaurant up there,” O’Connell shares. “Her co-star Christian Kane, who is a great musician and a great actor, was also in the restaurant, and he ended up joining our meal.”
He adds: “It’s not that we couldn’t shake him; it’s that he was so happy to see us and he kept congratulating us. I think he kept buying us drinks, so that was nice. So we celebrated our 10th anniversary with my wife’s co-star. He was elated to hang out with us. It was really fun!”
And while Romijn’s and O’Connell’s work schedules can make their life balance a little challenging at times, they’ve created a solution that works for them. “My wife and I really try to make sure one of us is at home when we’re working,” he says. “A lot of our jobs are out of town these days, so we just like to make sure one of us is home.”
And that’s exactly where everyone is going to be for Christmas, for the twins’ birthdays shortly after, and for O’Connell’s dog-show guest-hosting duties on New Year’s Day. It’s a family affair — every step of the way.
Jerry O’Connell hosts the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin, premiering on Animal Planet on New Year’s Day at 7 p.m. ET.
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